15 Oct 2013

Leigh Smith, MD of World Telecoms Lab talks VoIP to the Africa Com team…

Leigh Smith

We caught up with Leigh Smith ahead of the AfricaCom Conference and Exhibition, taking place at the CTICC in Cape Town, South Africa 12-14 November to find out a bit more 2nd generation VoIP, his experiences and focus at the event.

AfricaCom:  What is WTL up to in Africa?

As fibre continues to creep inland, many African start-ups are starting to use VoIP over leased fibre lines to offer voice connectivity.

We are not discussing VoIP as in the consumer technology of Skype, Viber etc whereby an app is downloaded.   Rather the use of a VoIP by carriers and service providers for their customers’ long-distance voice calls made in the traditional fashion with customers having their own dedicated traditional phone number.

Carriers in Africa have been slow to adopt VoIP technology in this way because they have had concerns about reliability, QoS and costs.

It’s true that the technology to interconnect a VoIP link onto a terrestrial network has been expensive. (Also many of the incumbent voice operators have a justifiable fear of the effects of VoIP on their voice revenues.  A distrust and negative attitude which has unfortunately affected VoIP adoption in parts of Africa which have most to gain from its adoption.)

The switches used for transferring VoIP traffic onto a terrestrial network were adapted from traditional voice switches by the large vendors – Ericsson, ZTE, Huawei etc - and consequently are huge, expensive and require a lot of maintenance which of course affects the bottom line.  Moreover they do not use the optimum compression techniques for VoIP.

WTL (World Telecom Labs) specializes in VoIP.  We recognized that there was a huge market in Africa for a smaller more cost-effective switch…

AfricaCom:  Tell me more about the WTL VoIP offering and its benefits to operators in Africa

Our suite of 2nd generation VoIP switch -  HyperPVx - have been designed from the ground up to enable operators in Africa to cost-effectively set-up and manage a VoIP network. 

The research to develop them was part funded by the European Space Agency and the product is now patented by the US Patent Office.

In a nutshell, our 2nd generation VoIP switches - HyperPVx - save operators significant amounts of money in terms of CAPEX - which of course is initial purchase and set-up  - as well as OPEX by increasing capacity, freeing up capacity in congested networks and enabling operators to cost-effectively add new capacity.

Since launching eight months ago WTL’s 2nd generation switches are now being used by 20 operators in 14 countries across Africa.  Unfortunately most of them don’t want to be publicly named because of an (understandable but frustrating for us!) unwillingness to tell competitors about how great our switches are!

Also many also prefer to hide the fact that they are using cost-efficient compressed VoIP as this can still carry an unjustified stigma of low quality from inferior non-WTL solutions.

Our customers at the moment are the early adopters; the most innovative players who have already seen the benefits of VoIP and rolled out services using it.

AfricaCom: Do you have any specific customers you can tell us about?

Xplorium Inc. is a carriers’ carrier specializing in long distance, backhaul of international traffic for mobile operators in Africa & Middle East.

It has deployed the HyperPVx on its link from the Ivory Coast to Paris. The result was an immediate reduction in the long distance bandwidth required between the two locations. The new WTL-based solution needed only 30% of the capacity used by standard VoIP and this translated straight into big monthly Opex savings. The network quickly ran at the planned capacity of 480 simultaneous calls with high audio quality even though each call used less than 7K bps (standard VoIP calls of similar quality will often use more than 30K bps).

Karim Charif, Technical Director, Xplorium Inc. says  "WTL is an innovative company which has really considered the needs of operators using VoIP. Its switches have been specifically designed to reduce the costs of deploying and maintaining a VoIP network, whilst maintaining the quality of the voice calls.

We have been able to significantly reduce our costs both in terms of CAPEX, OPEX and indeed by being able to increase capacity through WTL's specialist compression techniques".

AfricaCom: How is VoIP changing the market and why is it important for WTL to be a leader in the field? 

VoIP is a classic disruptive technology for service providers because it enables new entrants to enter with lower cost, innovative services. The new players are able to deploy smaller more efficient, more flexible 2nd generation VoIP switching. So, existing operators need to review their networks and installed equipment to avoid being caught flat footed by these rivals

AfricaCom: What strategies are you putting in place to help operators maximise revenues from VoIP services?

We are pushing a number of strategies for OpEx reduction.
a)    our patented NOP which reduces the amount of long-distance IP bandwidth required to run a VoIP service.
b)    Our 2nd generation VoIP switches are a more integrated product than others on the market meaning we reduce the amount of different equipment needed therefore decreasing support bills, rack space, power and so on. For example, with WTL, the SoftSwitch, SBC, Signalling Gateway and Media Gateway Controller (MGC) can all be delivered as a single small device.

AfricaCom: What are your expectations from taking part in AfricaCom this year?

This is the 5th time that WTL has attended the show.  We have been around for 15 years specializing in VoIP systems since the earliest days of this technology but have maintained a low profile with sales coming through customer recommendations.

We are a niche vendor – at the moment – and are successful because our products are innovative and solve cost and efficiency problems for our customers.
We would be happy to meet with any operators who have already rolled out VoIP networks and are looking for additional efficiencies – and those who are considering what role VoIP could and should play within their businesses.

Please visit www.wtl.be for more information, email sales@wtl.be to book an appointment at the show or come to our stand, P74a. 

 Visit World Telecoms Lab at AfricaCom 2013. Come and meet them at stand P74a by registering for your free ticket to AfricaCom Here